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SHOW ME THE VOICE . . . Interview with judge, agent Natalie Fischer

Sunday, 13 March 2011  |  Posted by Brenda Drake
Natalie Fischer
Before I start I want to give you some excellent links to recent posts from Natalie featuring voice. She explains it so well, that I had this oh-I-totally-get-it moment. And here they are…
On her blog at Adventures in Agentland: YA vs. Adult: what’s so different, anyway? 
On the Adventures in Children’s Publishing blog: Literary Agent Natalie Fischer On Nailing Voice…
Go check them out for great tips on how to polish up your writing voice for the contest! And now, to the interview…

I first came across the fantabulous Natalie Fischer on WriteOnCon during her live chat, which you can view here. She was so personable during this interview, I liked her instantly. Especially when posed with a question about what she’d like writers to take away from her chat on WriteOnCon and she had said that she would like them to know that she’s a person too, she’s approachable, she has rules and appreciates professionalism, and she won’t laugh at you if you make a mistake.

And she wasn’t lying, because she didn’t laugh at me when I asked her to do this contest with her crazy hectic schedule. Not only did she just move to the Bradford Agency, but also, she’s planning her wedding. So I’m completely impressed with her drive, and anyone would be lucky to snag her as their agent.

So, welcome Natalie to my blog *waves*!

As you can probably tell by the title of my blog, my vice is coffee while I’m writing. What’s your vice while you’re doing your agent thing?

I have none. I am…SUPER AGENT! 😉 But really, its having the willpower to keep working. I work at home now, and its way too easy to get distracted
Yeah, I hear you on that. I get easily distracted while writing at home. 

Before deciding to become an agent, you worked for the San Diego Union Tribune and interned for the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. How did that prepare you for agenting?

The biggest strength I gained was the ability to look at a manuscript from different angles. My college classes all considered writing such an art, which is a good background to be able to appreciate a good manuscript when I see one, but at the internship, I learned the invaluable ability to look at manuscripts objectively. And agent can’t just “appreciate” a novel; she has to be able to sell it. There are many manuscripts I’ve considered that I loved, but just couldn’t see a market for.
At the Union Tribune it was just humbling to see HOW many new books are published each MONTH, which are ALL fighting for shelf and review space. I’d say at least four or five mail-buckets a month would come in to the review room – and that’s just to the SDUT! I can’t imagine what the review room looks like at the NYT! Made me realize how extraordinary a hook has to be, how fresh an idea must be, to make it.
Wow, four or five buckets? That’s a lot of books. 

So, what does hook you, I mean, what genres do you represent? 

Commercial fiction, with an emphasis in children’s literature (from picture book-YA/Teen), romance (contemporary and historical), historical fiction, multi-cultural fiction, paranormal, sci-fi/fantasy in YA or romance only, fairy-tale/legend spin-offs, and “beautiful dark” novels – which means novels with beautiful writing and darker, troubling subjects or characters.

Do you work closely with your clients on revisions before submitting a project to publishers? How would you describe your agent style?

Oh yes! I am very editorial as an agent.

That’s wonderful! Got love an agent who works with her clients to give that book the best chance at getting published. In the WriteOnCon live chat, I loved how you explained that you ask for revisions to see if you and the writer will work well together. 

What are the common mistakes you see writers make when querying you?

Well, that would be querying me, period, ha, since Im currently closed to unsolicited submissions. But really, Id say not doing their homework or proofing the email before they send to make sure its addressed to the right person, is spell-checked, and has no typos.

Heehee. Did you get that everyone? Natalie Fischer is currently closed to submissions during her transition from her prior agency to the Bradford Agency. Keep an eye out on her blog’s contact page here to see when she’s open again. 

I live in New Mexico and read about your sale of Roseanne Thong’s ROUND IS A TORTILLA, and I’m so excited  for its release so I can share with it with some special children in my community. What other clients’ works are you excited to see hit the bookstores’ shelves?

Very excited that the debut YA from co-authors Natalie Zaman and Charlotte Bennardo, SIRENZ, will hit shelves in June! ALL DIFFERENT KINDS OF FREE I am also VERY eager to see hit shelves; its an incredibly emotional adult historical, and I cant wait to see how people react to it. The reviews have been so strong. Its out in April.

I read a review and I’m excited to get my hands on a copy, and I will be promoting it and giving away a free copy right here on my blog. 

What are you looking for and what do you see way too much of in the slush pile?

Im looking out for writers with an incredible voice and a hook. I see way too many vampire and werewolf stories, even though everyone repeatedly says how sick of those they are. Paranormal in general is just not doing it for me right now. I want dark and edgy and contemporary.

Okay everyone, get that dark and edgy contemporary manuscripts polished so you can query Natalie with them when she’s opened for submissions. 

With your editor eye, what’s the biggest mistake you see in the full manuscripts that you pass on?  

The writing doesn’t hold up past the first ten pages. The pacing starts to drag and I just don’t have interest anymore.  

You have a great post about voice on your site,  Adventures in Agentland and since this is a show your voice contest, do you have any quick pointers on how to make a first 250 words of a manuscript shine with voice? 

Start with a punch. Don’t drag your feet in an opening – no long descriptions, dream sequences, or random floating dialogue. Give me a voice to latch onto – which means give me a personality from the start of your first sentence. 

Thank you, Natalie! In closing, can you leave us with one of your favorite openings that really showcases a great voice? 

I’m actually going to use an unpublished example, because I love it:
“In a small town, in the middle of nowhere, Tennessee, sits a haunted middle school. And a haunted church. And a haunted cemetery. And about sixty haunted houses. That’s what they say, anyway. I, Brooklyn Davidson, don’t believe in any of that.”
 – Ghost Patrol: School Spirits, Stephanie Faris

Oooo, I love that opening and the title is so intriguing. I hope it gets published soon.

Well. that’s it. Come back March 17th for my St. Patrick’s Day giveaway. And don’t forget to sign up below for the SHOW ME THE VOICE Blogfest Contest!

Filed: Misc

  • Steph says:

    Awesome interview, and contest!

    Good luck with the wedding planning, Natalie! Thanks for your time, and thank you Brenda for yours as well! 🙂

  • Bekah says:

    I read her posts on voice, and they’re very informational. No one can teach me voice, yet I can improve it. I find that I hear a voice in my head for specific characters but putting them on paper is sometimes a bit harder.
    Nice blogfest…again : )

  • A. Grey says:

    Great post! Nice to *meet* you Natalie!

    Good luck with the wedding planning. All I can say is keep a notebook with sections for everything… I cannot imagine planning anything like that. A book, totally… ‘real’ life… uh not so much 🙂

  • gideon86 says:

    This is great. I saw this on another blogger’s post. I have already entered. Thanks Brenda.

    Have a great pre-birthday week and St. Pats. I’m not Irish, but I know many who are and I love them…. So there you have.

    I am so looking forward to your contest!!!!! My new novel has an amazingly strong…. at least that’s what I’ve been told.


  • I read Natalie’s interview about voice on Adventures in Children’s Publishing as well. Very great explanations!

  • Tanya Reimer says:

    Wow thanks for the great interview. Loved it!

  • I can never see too many examples of voice. I keep hoping it will start to sink in! Loved her example and now off to check her articles on voice!

  • Brenda Drake says:

    I’m so glad you all enjoyed the interview! Her posts on voice are so simple to understand and I hope you all learn something new from them. 😀

  • Fantastic interview to both of you ;o) Some great insight too, thanks so much, Natalie ;o)

  • Donea Lee says:

    Thanks for the interview, ladies! Natalie – I appreciate the opportunity to get to know more about you. I’m hoping I have the chance to meet you at the Pike’s Peak Conference in April. Off to check out your article on voice! Thanks, again ~ 🙂

  • Hey, Brenda. Thanks so much for your comment this morning on my blog! That was so sweet of you to say and I hope you get to read the rest someday. I also look forward to reading Annika Britannica – it’s a great concept with a great voice. Good luck to us both!

  • Great interview, ladies! It looks like you are hosting another awesome blogfest, Brenda.

    I have an award for you. 🙂

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